Carla Esparza relishing in underdog role ahead of UFC 281 title defense against Weili Zhang: “It’s always great to win, but to silence all the doubters”

By Josh Evanoff - November 8, 2022

UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza is happy to be the underdog this weekend.

‘Cookie Monster’ is set to return for the first time since her controversial win over Rose Namajunas in May. While their first outing eight years prior was a dominant win for Esparza, the second encounter wasn’t.

In fact, not much happened at all. The five-round strawweight title fight at UFC 274 saw little to no action for 25 minutes. At the end of the contest, it was Esparza who walked away with the victory by a split decision.

It’s likely because of that lackluster victory in May that Carla Esparza is a massive underdog for this weekend. Standing opposite the champion will be another former title holder in Weili Zhang. ‘Magnum’ sent Joanna Jedrzejczyk into retirement with a massive knockout in June.

While many wouldn’t be happy in the underdog role, Esparza seems thrilled, as she revealed in an interview with MMAFighting. For her, the territory isn’t new, as she’s been the underdog for most of her six-fight winning streak.

For Carla Esparza, beating the doubters and pulling another upset is a win in itself.


PhotoCred: MMA Fighting (Esther Lin)

“It is funny,” Esparza stated “Before, I would say early in my career it would kind of bum me out like ‘hey, I’m a good fighter!’ But now it just makes me smile and laugh. Like I know that I have a little secret but people [say] this is going to happen or that is going to happen and I’m just like OK but deep down I have my secret like you’ll see.” (h/t MMAFighting)

“But I don’t need to talk about it,” She continued. “That’s been the style of my coach and my team since I’ve been there. Do your talking in the cage. I don’t need to tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to show you.”

She continued, “…It’s always great to win but to silence all the doubters, there’s a little bit of extra satisfaction to that. Unfortunately or fortunately, it’s something I’ve gotten to do a lot in my career. I’m a betting underdog usually and my friends and family have thanked me because I’ve won them a lot of money in the past. It is what it is. I definitely don’t mind being the underdog.”

What do you make of these comments? Do you think she’ll pull off the upset? Sound off in the comment section below PENN Nation!